After my first job at MTV working as a music programmer, I can't stop trying to matchmake people with music they might like. So, I wrote a book called Record Collecting for Girls and started interviewing musicians. The Music Concierge is a column where I share music I'm listening to that you might enjoy, with a little context. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave me a comment below and tell me what you're listening to this week.
Lana Del Rey "Mariners Apartment Complex"
That's right: LDR is back, has been working on new music, and just dropped the first track from her sessions recording with producer Jack Antonoff. Hopefully, this means a new album from our favourite noir singer before Christmas. Lana offers up another slice of West Coast-centric Americana, with Antonoff blending smoothly into her signature style. The most unusual feature to this track is the speak-singing she indulges in throughout the choruses; while not totally unprecedented in her catalog, they are taken to an interesting extreme here. The lyrics to the song are rife with references, with lyrics from Elton John ("Candle in the wind" and Leonard Cohen ("I'm your man") representing. Talk about a letter to all the boys I've loved before.
Tayla Parx "Me vs. Us"
If you feel a little tingle of familiarity listening to Tayla Parx, that's because you've probably heard her work before. She's written tracks for some of the biggest stars in the game, including Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe, Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and Nicki Minaj. But once you hear her sing, you'll wonder why she didn't keep those songs all for herself. This song is artfully produced to hit maximum pop crossover appeal; the vocal arrangement with its syncopated rhythm is a special standout. Her sartorial style is very early '90s, but her music is on the cutting edge of right now.
Courtney Marie Andrews "Heart and Mind"
Courtney Marie Andrews can pack a lot of emotion into a word. Plus, she can hold a note longer than most humans should be capable of. The moroseness in her voice is put to excellent use in this track, where she holds on to the words "weary" and "body" with a warble that will break your heart. The clarity of her voice is astounding, and she evokes some of the great voices of the past (Crystal Gayle or Anne Murray, anyone?) whose outsized talents modern country wouldn't know what to do with.
This Belgian singer/songwriter may have just started her career, but I already can't wait to hear more. Her plainspoken lyrics are biting in the best way (especially "when I say that your love ain't real / it's trash"). The minimal music lets her vocal flow lead the track, something that's a hallmark in Soundcloud rap but that most artists have a hard time translating to other genres; that shift is part of what makes SZA's music so appealing. She also strikes a deft balance between a harsh track with light music that doesn't weigh it down, avoiding the trap of sounding dark or bitter while dealing cold truths.
Morgan Saint "On Fire"
There's something of a siren's call buried in this track from Morgan Saint. Sure, there are the literal siren-like noises at its start, but her languid, high delivery is surely the sound that would tempt a person into all sorts of misadventure. I love her definitively feminine sound and the way it's accentuated with those high-pitched beats that sound like the way skipping a rock on the surface of water look. You don't get the feeling of burning it all down from this track. Rather, it is the sound of a cool, slow, controlled burn.